It’s a sunny Thursday afternoon when I meet with BLACKSTARKIDS, an alt-pop/rap group of pop-culture connoisseurs who swim in a wash of ’90s nostalgia. The band — who will be joining Glass Animals for a pair of shows at the Santa Barbara Bowl this Wednesday and Thursday — consists of Deiondre, Ty, and Gabe. Everything about them screams DIY, from their humble beginnings meeting on social media to their subsequent kismet signing to the self-drawn doodles on the cover of their new album, Puppies Forever.
Best known for their mix of alt-pop and rap, they have carved a lane of their own by blending dance-pop shimmer with hip-hop tongue twisters, rap references, glitchy beats, and one-off soundbites. They top it all off with a genuine need to express not only themselves but a new generation.
Is there a meaning to your band name, and how’d it come to be?
Ty: No, there’s not really a meaning, but when we first started talking about it, it just popped in my head. Here we are! It made sense, and it always felt comfortable. It just came naturally.
What’s the story of how you guys met on social media?
Ty: We all went to school together, but we didn’t talk to each other much. We just were interacting on Instagram, and I had already known Gabe.
My favorite song of yours is “BRITNEY BITCH”! A lot of your songs have super cute pop culture-y names. Is that intentional, and are song titles important to you?
Ty: Song titles are very important to us. We come up with the titles before we make the songs, so I spend a lot of my time thinking of what the songs will be called and stuff like that.
What’s your songwriting process like? How are you able to include the best soundbites into your songs? I really like them!
Ty: Thank you! Usually, we’ll come down and Deiondre will do a bulk of the beat, and Gabe and I will write our verses separately and then we’ll come together with whoever’s doing the hook.
Gabe: It alternates who finishes first; it alternates.
Deiondre: We always try to keep it within the same session and keep it new.
Fresh off of a tour with Grouplove and preparing for another leg in North America with fellow Dirty Hit signee beabadoobee, BLACKSTARKIDS are excited to join Glass Animals for their shows at the Santa Barbara Bowl this Wednesday and Thursday.
You’re about to support Glass Animals in Santa Barbara, and you just toured with Grouplove. What’s been your favorite part of touring with them and touring in general?
Ty: Seeing all the different stuff!
Deiondre: Grouplove’s super nice; they and Glass Animals are super nice. Living the artist side of things … Green rooms are cool! And being able to walk anywhere in the venue is cool. With Glass Animals, we performed in front of thousands of people.
Tell me how your alt-pop/rap sound came to be. Did it come naturally, or was it an intentional thing?
Gabe: I think it came naturally! We listen to both those genres a lot, so we might as well blend that into our music!
What are your modern influences? If you had your own radio show, what would it be called and what would you play?
Ty: We’re gonna do a radio show! The title for it was called “Whatever Radio’.” Maybe that or maybe something else? Modern influences… Blood Orange, Toro, MGMT…
Gabe: Charli XCX!
Ty: The 1975! Those are the big ones.
What was it like hearing from Matt Healy since you guys were such huge fans?
Ty: That was crazy.
Gabe: That was so insane. He’s so nice! He’s awesome. I love Matty!
Ty: He’s a great guy. Seriously, he’s everything you would want somebody to be. Real cool, easy to talk to.
I’m a huge fan of The 1975 like you guys, and I wanted to know what your favorite 1975 song is?
Ty: “Give Yourself A Try”
Deiondre: “She’s American,” “If You’re Too Shy”…
Gabe: That’s a great song.
Deiondre: “People,” “Frail State Of Mind” … I like a lot of their stuff, so …
Gabe: “If You’re Too Shy” is so good!
It became increasingly apparent that BLACKSTARKIDS prioritize genuine self- expression as much as they do production, and are a delicate balance of taking their art seriously and not taking themselves too seriously.
Artwork and design seem to be a big part of your brand. What’s that process like, and how do you hope audiences perceive your artwork in regard to your music?
Ty: I always hope people think it’s fire.
Deiondre: We want it to be representative of us. We know what we’re trying to display with the cover art, and we know what we’re talking about.
Ty: On Puppies Forever, Deiondre drew all of those little drawings that you see!
You’re opening for beabadoobee on her upcoming U.S. tour, and have a co-sign from Matt Healy. How’s your relationship with the other members of Dirty Hit?
Gabe: We feel like family in a way. We’re on this label together, and it’s like being in a classroom with other people and you can make friends!
Ty: It’s not like a huge label, so it’s not like anyone feels out of reach, like Matty even.
Deiondre: Matty’s, like, one of the more accessible people at the label, which shows how cool he is. It’s close-knit and everyone genuinely cares about what we want.
What’s the most important part of what you guys do?
Gabe: It’s us three and how we work. I feel like that’s an important message.
Deiondre: Us three having fun, and that whenever we make something, we genuinely like it.
When asked if there’s a question they’ve ever wanted to be asked, Ty emphatically says, “What’s your favorite Lil Durk song?” He also formally requested I leave his entire answer here, in full. Here it is below:
Ty: You got “The Story 2.5,” where he, like, really tells the whole history of his come-up and how he became Lil Durk. A great song. “52 Bars, Pt. II” is, like, the old classic. That was, like, amazing. I think my favorite Lil Durk song is “Stay Down,” it’s, like, crazy.
Gabe: I hope Lil Durk reads that.
Ty: When you’re writing that, put that whole thing in there!
Deiondre: Are you going to let Drake out of his room? And the answer’s no! He’s grounded!
Ty: Free Drake.
Gabe: Drake’s the best. I love Drake.
Wrapping up one of my most fun interviews, BLACKSTARKIDS take the silliest questions I ask extremely seriously. Here is my favorite:
If you could put one thing, anything, in every vinyl record you guys sell, regardless of cost, what would it be?
Ty: Happy crack. Kool-Aid and sugar.
Gabe: I would put Skittles. Just all the Skittles in the world, in that vinyl.
Ty: In every single one.
Deiondre: A McDonald’s receipt.
Ty: For your McChicken.
Deiondre: Just be like, hey! I need a refund! And they give you a free McChicken.
Thanks for truly expressing yourselves — it’s so inspiring! I had a lovely time!
Ty: This is our best interview. We snapped on this one.
BLACKSTARKIDS have released Puppies Forever via Dirty Hit, their anticipated debut full-length album. The album features “PISS DRUNK KIDS,” an escapist banger that revels in the freedom of being intoxicated with your friends as a means of distracting yourself from negative emotions and life’s problems, alongside previously released singles “ALL COPS ARE BASTARDS*,” “FIGHT CLUB,” and “JUNO.”
Currently on tour with Glass Animals, BLACKSTARKIDS recently wrapped a string of dates with GroupLove and will soon embark on a nationwide, 26-date tour alongside Christian Leave in support of beabadoobee on November 1 that will include a hometown show in Kansas City and stops in major cities such as New York; Los Angeles; Washington, D.C.; Chicago; Dallas; Austin; San Francisco; Boston; Atlanta; Seattle; and more.